Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pearl Returns to Work

Pearl Prestwich lives in a modest brick bungalow surrounded by lilac and a white picket fence on Tulip Lane in Cloverdale. It has been her home for fifty one years, forty five of which were spent with her beloved Aurthur, recently passed.

Pearl and Aurthur lost much of their savings in the great recession, leaving Pearl in a financial situation requiring her to seek part time employment. She knew her advanced age would be one factor against her. After all, who would want to hire someone squarely in the winter of her life? And not having worked for many many years, Pearl’s self confidence in her talents and abilities lacked a firm foundation. Facing rejection on a daily basis was something Pearl feared.

One Tuesday evening, while dozing in front of her gas fire and the company of Cloverdale Weekend Television, Pearl happened to wake long enough to hear someone talking about jobs in this tough economy. She sat up in her chair, reached for her glasses from the side table and watched. One thing the commentator said struck a chord. He said the successful job applicant was one that effectively used his or her network of family and friends.

Pearl thought for a moment, then reached for a tablet and pen and made a list of family and friends. Next to each name she wrote where they worked, and starred the places she thought she’d like to work. Half way down the paper she wrote her great nephew’s name. Next to it she wrote ‘Cloverdale Bank’. That was it. Working in a bank was something she could do. After all, money hasn't changed much over her lifetime. She got out of her chair, walked to the kitchen and looked through the various scrapes of paper hanging by magnets from the refrigerator door. She found her great nephew's name on the back of an electricity bill from 2002.

Two weeks later Pearl arrived at the bank for her first day of work. Her great nephew was the manager of the Cloverdale branch and, although reluctant to do so, gave her a job as a data entry clerk. Her first hour was spent with her supervisor. He introduced her to the rest of the employees, took her to her desk, gave her a crash course in the data entry computer program then left her with a stack of papers and instructions to have them digitized by noon.

Twenty minutes later Pearl was at the supervisor's desk asking for Windex and a rag. Apparently she'd tried to correct a misspelled word on her computer with a bottle of white out found at the back of her desk drawer. Her supervisor sat in complete shock. Pearl was told to take the rest of the day off. She spent most of it working in her garden and worrying about what she’d done. By dinner time her stomach was so knotted she managed to keep down one bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup and nothing else.

The following morning there was a note on her desk asking her to go straight to her great nephew’s office. When she emerged twenty minutes later she had a new job at the bank, something not so technical. She was Cloverdale Bank's new part time security guard. She had a chair near the front door so she wouldn't have to spend endless hours on her feet, she had a very nice and official uniform with badge, and she was issued a fake gun. Fake as in it wouldn’t fire but very realistic in appearance and weight.

That next day Pearl was at her post near the front door. She kindly greeted all the customers as they entered the bank and had the pleasure of giving suckers and balloons to the children. It was a perfect job, and best of all it came with a raise. There was one drawback though. The weight of the pistol hanging on her right hip pulled her to the right whenever she walked.

Pearl was frustrated the first day after spending twenty minutes walking various trajectories and angles just to reach the bathroom. On the second day her mental math improved. She was able to calculate the circle’s arc well enough to reach the bathroom on the third attempt. Today she has it mastered. For instance, the staff break room is at Pearl's 3 o'clock. She knows that if she wants to go to the staff room to have a cup of coffee for her morning break she starts her journey by walking to her 1 o’clock. The gun's pull on her right hip will place her on a circular journey landing her right at the staff break room in front of the coffee machine.

Pearl is happy, her great nephew is happy and life in our sleepy village moves on.

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